A woman sitting in the lotus position with her legs crossed.By Dr. Jennifer Pham-MacMillan, ND

Why Detox?
Everyday, we are exposed to more toxic compounds in our air, water, food and general environment. And sometimes they can accumulate to levels in the body that are harmful. Our ability to detoxify these harmful substances is essential to our health, to the prevention of disease and increased vitality. The winter and hibernation season is near its end, it’s a change of season. Consider it “spring cleaning” for your body and health.

Signs and symptoms of toxicity can include headache, low energy and fatigue, body aches and pains, allergies(with allergy season just around the corner, decreasing your toxic load can help relieve the allergy symptoms you my experience), puffy eyes, skin irritations, acne, bloating and digestion problems, and menstrual problems.

What does detoxification mean?
Simply, it means getting the junk that your body has been storing out of the body. It sounds like a simple concept, but can be far more complex depending one’s health. It requires the co-operation and co-ordination of many organs such as your liver, kidneys and digestive tract.

Detoxification of stored toxins involves three stages. Our main detoxifying organ is the liver;  it processes and packages toxins, making them ready for elimination. The first two stages of detoxification are broken down into the processing of phase-1 enzyme system, and packaging of phase-2 enzyme systems of the liver. A detoxification that is centered around optimizing liver function is the most powerful approach to decreasing overall toxicity. The third step of detoxification is excretion; gastrointestinal and urinary health and function are cornerstones of proper elimination of the packaged toxins from the body.

The Do’s and Don’ts of detoxification:

Do: Eat healthy, nutritious, liver-friendly foods
Effective, safe and healthy detoxification requires nutrients, rest and supplementation. Prolonged fasting or laxative-based detoxes can cause more harm than good, leaving the body more depleted and weakened. For the winter season, consider nourishing foods such as ginger and garlic spiced soups and curries, hearty stews, lean proteins and steamed veggies.

Do: Up-regulate liver function with herbs and supplements
Specific vitamin, mineral and botanical  combinations encourages the body’s detox pathways, support the body through the process. Supplementing with specific vitamins and minerals, such as B-vitamins, N-acetylcysteine, and amino acids optimize liver function and allow for processing and packaging of toxins. Fiber, probiotics, and specific herbal combinations can encourage digestive elimination and liver function.

Don’t: Starve, fast or deplete nutrients by overdoing it
Though short periods of fasting may be beneficial, the body requires energy, vitamins, minerals and protein to package, process and excrete toxins from the body. Dramatic weight loss (usually water weight) doesn’t equal an effective detox.
Don’t: Do the fad detoxes
Most trendy detoxes are not science based and catch people with promises of quick weight loss. I find these cleanses to be short-lived, cause rebound weight gain, and can leave the body more depleted than before. Laxative-based detoxes pull out minerals and vitamins from the body, and generally don’t support liver, kidney, and cellular function.
Detoxification programs should begin with elimination of major toxin intake. Avoiding packaged, processed and refined foods, as well as any food sensitivities, and switching to a whole foods diet with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables is the first step. Drinking adequate daily water intake is essential for elimination of toxins.

Detoxes are important for everyone to incorporate into general health, but need to be individualized for unique health concerns and health goals. Consult with your Naturopathic Doctor to build a detox perfect for you!